Across the road from the immensely popular Ashridge Estate is a proper hidden gem. When we recently did the forester’s walk you could get a better glimpse of the house so I had a look on the website to see it properly. It was only then I found out that the cafe and gardens at Ashridge House are open to the public so I just had to visit and do a review.
Oh. My. God! As you come up the drive you get a full view of the house which is incredible. It genuinely looks like a castle! We later found out that what is there now is actually relatively new and it isn’t actually a medieval castle at all, but I don’t care. This house is amazing and I want to live there!!
The bulk of the house is used as a conference and training centre and for weddings. Massively out of my budget, but worth considering renewing our vows just to have a look around inside! The gardens themselves are closed when a wedding is taking place so make sure you double check the website before visiting. When we visited Ashridge house and gardens to do this review covid restrictions were still in place so there were no conferences taking place. That meant the gardens were practically deserted! The cafe was fairly busy with cyclists though.
The courtyard cafe
This is a cafe. In a courtyard. Not just a clever name. It’s also the entrance to the gardens at Ashridge House, and where you buy your tickets. According to Hubby the coffee was OK (but only OK) and it’s not extortionately priced.
The gardens at Ashridge House have lots of different little sections. Near the entrance there are several little gardens. These are all pretty enough, nice water features etc, far better than anything I could hope to achieve but not necessarily anything to write home about. Certainly not the best part of the gardens though!
One thing I did really like about the first bit is this little grotto tunnel thing called a Souterrein (and yes, I had to google what that is!). It’s gated so you can’t walk through, but you can look down the whole length of it. The whole thing is lined with pieces of flint. They actually look like hundreds of bats dangling from the ceiling which is both cool and terrifying!
Overall I’d say there’s so much to see here and it’s a nice garden to explore. I have written and re-written this review of the gardens at Ashridge House a couple of times now. I really like this place, it’s such a lovely way to spend a couple of hours, it’s just difficult to explain somehow!
This is quite possibly my favourite part of the garden. As well as masses of Rhododendrons it’s lined with huge trees that make the whole thing look very dramatic. The Rhododendron walk will be absolutely incredible when it’s in full bloom (usually the end of April – June). When we visited the gardens at Ashridge House they hadn’t come into bloom yet, which is more of a reason to go back. Whilst we were walking down this bit we spotted several pheasants, a rabbit and a deer! We spent ages watching it wonder around the gardens, quite happy!
At the end of the Rhododendron Walk is this really cute little house-thing called the Repton’s Arbour. When we visited the gardens at Ashridge House there was almost no-one there. It was incredibly peaceful just sitting in there watching the kids playing near the daffodils and running up and down the avenue. (Ok, so it was only peaceful for a few minutes until one of them ended up hurting themselves, but for those few minutes it was lovely.)
The formal gardens
This place has some pretty unusual features. There’s some beech houses which are basically little dens made from beech trees. In one corner there’s a skating pond. How very Victorian – a pond specifically there for boating in summer and skating on in winter. How the other half live!
Near the house (which looks even more incredible from this side) there’s the Italian garden and Orangery. Although this part is really pretty to look at, it’s probably more of interest to the adults than the kids. Except for the fountain which always seems to be a draw for my kids.
The wider estate
There are loads of walks that you can do from Ashridge House and gardens. There’s Golden Valley (you can find a walking route here), Prince’s Riding and of course the Ashridge Estate as well. The Forester’s walk comes close to the house.
Part of the estate is a private (and probably quite expensive) golf course so you do need to be careful not to stray!
Our Ashridge House and Gardens review
When we visited the gardens at Ashridge House it was incredibly quiet. There was hardly anyone there. The house itself is used as a conference centre and wedding venue, so obviously isn’t exactly busy at the moment! I wonder if it will be busier in normal times, but if even though I can’t believe it would feel overcrowded.
I think this place is a little hidden gem. Somewhere really pretty to explore and there’s tons of space for the kids to run around. I don’t think it’s particularly well known, especially when you compare it to the woodlands across the road, which makes it lovely.
£5 per adult, children are free
Parking / How to get there
There’s a free car park on-site.
Address – Ashridge, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 1NS
There’s a cafe on site. There are also a couple of places that look perfect for a picnic
There are toilets on site
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook